The man draped his raincoat over his arm at the entrance to the Smithsonian Castle. Inside, some of the most elite of the international scholarly established stood talking.

"Bad night for the World Series, isn't it?" the man lamented.

First things first. It was the annual reception for the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars at the Smithsonian where past and present fellows of the center and at least one past senator -- J.William Fullbright -- gathered.

"This place is like Noah's Ark," said Wilson Fellow David Otaway, a foreign correspondent on leave from The Washington Post and writing a book with his wife, Marina, also a Wilson Fellow, on communism in Africa. "it's got one of everything."

Of the center, which accepts about 30 fellows each year to study and write, one staffer said: "We've had the former Bolivian president, we've had Gloria Steinem, and Elliot Richardson came after the Saturday Night Massacre."

The mood of last night's reception was true in spirit as well as in dress to the edict on the invitation: informal.

"I'm 'Doctor' in Washington and 'Mister' everywhere else," said a grinning Prosser Gifford, former dean of the faculty at Amherst College and currently the assistant director of the Wilson Center, when asked his academic title. "I believe the only real doctors are the ones who can set your leg."

Frederick Starr, secretary of the Kennan Institute of Advanced Russian Studies of the Wilson Center, was busy during most of the reception -- he was playing the clarinet in the New Orleans jazz band.

"We play in Washington, and we're doing a recording," Starr said of the group, the Federal Jazz Commission. "It's the only federal commission that works at night -- maybe the only one that works."

A fellow from Romania passed by Starr during his break. "Very impressive," said the fellow nodding.

"I've been a fellow twice -- Jim Billington, the director, said they were going to give me an honorary doctorate," said A. E. Dick Howard, laughing.

Howard, a constitutional law professor at the University of Virginia, spent his years at the center writing about the Supreme Court under Chief Justice Warren Burger. "The center juxtaposes the worlds of action and contemplation," he said. "That may be the secret of the place."